National Opinions

The Bakersfield Californian: Recall all California politicians

Throw the bums out. All of them. Ineptitude this pervasive, this deep, cannot go unchallenged.

Let's recall the entire California Legislature, from the newest newbie in the Assembly to the longest-tenured white hair in the state Senate. The governor, too.

At this point, of course, we might as well let them pass the budget before we bring out the brooms. The combatants are expected to close the deal this week.

But as soon as the ink's dry, we'll need some new recruits.

I'll even write the want ad: Legislator. Must be competent in arithmetic. There. That ought to cover it.

Their failure to settle on a budget until now -- placing more people and institutions at the brink of catastrophe than most of us can fathom -- is beyond reckless. We are tottering over the abyss, and they're pushing. I call that malfeasance.

Can we actually recall an entire Legislature at once? Well, no. Not technically. We can simultaneously recall each of them individually. But there's no provision in law for an en-masse termination. That's what regularly scheduled elections are supposed to be for.

A group recall would cost tens of millions of dollars -- an irresponsible expenditure at a time when the state is almost literally broke. But the Legislature's inaction has made things immeasurably worse for school districts, county and city governments, and the many quasi-governmental institutions (including nonprofits) that can't react to these new circumstances until they get the specifics from the Legislature. And the longer these groups are forced to wait, the more severe their cuts. The more severe their cuts, the more the rest of us suffer, as we'll all discover later this month.

Can we afford to allow this same group to square off in another budget battle in two or three months? One that potentially will be even more heart-wrenching, thanks to our present circumstances? No.

But the only alternative is the implausible little scenario I describe here.

Republicans, you're out first. Legislatures are supposed to govern by consensus -- that's the whole object of this democracy thing.

Consensus implies an ongoing process of cooperation and compromise. And compromise, by definition, is about finding resolution somewhere between the two extremes: In this case, (1) not raising taxes a cent, and (2) not cutting programs a cent. The responsible thing for Republicans would have been to negotiate as small and as temporary an emergency tax increase as possible. And in the end, that's precisely what they will do. Just like we suggested months ago.

Instead, while Republicans stonewalled, the deficit ballooned cartoonishly from $12 billion to $42 billion. So, get out. Take the Democrats with you.

Sure, the majority party has accepted the inevitability of some deep cuts, and even volunteered several billion dollars' worth.

But they've shown little general inclination toward restraint, all the more galling in view of our perpetual budget crisis, now in its 10th year, give or take.

We're cleaning house. Citizens, dust off your resumes.

Service in the California Legislature doesn't require extraordinary intelligence. Just some sense.

What are your qualifications? E-mail rprice@bakersfield.com.

  Comments